But after falling behind early, the Bluejays proved they, too could handle a grind-it-out, low-scoring contest. Led by standout sophomore Doug McDermott, Creighton snatched the lead away from the Crimson Tide late in the second half and held on for a 58-57 victory in Greensboro.
The win was only Creighton’s second in seven tournament appeareances since 2000 and sets up a round-of-32 game against either top-seeded North Carolina or Vermont on Sunday
The Bluejays trailed 30-23 at the half and still trailed by seven at the eight-minute mark of the second half. But Ethan Wragge’s three-pointer triggered a 14-0 run that gave Creighton a 57-50 lead with 2:47 remaining.
The Crimson Tide pulled to within 58-57 on Andrew Steele’s layup and had a chance to win or tie after Josh Jones missed a pair of free throws. But after a pair of late timeouts that allowed the Bluejays to change their defense three times, Trevor Releford’s contested three-pointer at the buzzer fell several feet short of the rim.
Replays showed that Releford may have been tapped on the arm during his shot, but his plea for a foul call went unanswered.
The Bluejays — who led the nation in field goal percentage this season — were held to 44 percent shooting for the game and survived despite missing five of their final six free throws.
McDermott had 16 points and nine rebounds and Grant Gibbs added 10 points for Creighton, which finished the game with a 17-9 run. The Bluejays toppled fifth-seeded Florida in the first round in 2002.
Box score: Creighton 58, Alabama 57
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